A social landlord in South Tyneside is hoping to provide a helping hand and new homes to Syrian refugees.
Colin Campbell, who has run South Tyneside Landlords’ Association for 30 years, has contacted 70 fellow landlords to test their appetite for housing some of the refugees currently fleeing the strife-torn Middle East country in borough properties which are currently unoccupied.
He is also calling on local estate agents to contact clients to assess the possibility of providing properties for refugees.
Mr Campbell believes the move could create a Syrian community in South Tyneside akin to the influx of Yemeni Arabs who arrived in South Shields back in the late 19th century.
But a lot will depend on how the accommodation and furnishings needed to make the plan a reality will be funded.
The move comes after the Government announced it would be dipping into its overseas aid budget to enable local authorities to house refugees.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for South Tyneside Council said the authority was “actively exploring” what role it can play in the crisis and was awaiting news of what financial support would be available from central government.
Mr Campbell said: “We would look to bring in refugees from Syria whose lives have been destroyed, some who have been living in tents for four years, and have no country to go back to – it would not be for economic migrants.
“It could create a microcosm of a Syrian community in South Tyneside, bringing people with every skill, including professional people such as doctors.
“We’ve had something of this experience before when we housed people from Kosovo in the 1990s who had been ethnically cleansed. They were housed in flats in Stanhope Road in South Shields for two years, before they moved on to Walsall.”
Coun Allan West, he council’s lead member for housing and transport said: “It is clear that many people are increasingly concerned by this refugee crisis.
“We share these concerns and the council is actively exploring what part we could play.
“We are therefore keen to receive more detail from the Government as to the financial assistance available to local authorities to support displaced people from Syria.”